Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Addio, Padre Fausto, missionary & martyr

Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME was buried in Kidapawan today, beside the grave of Fr. Tulio Favale who was also murdered 25 years ago.

I regret I could not be at his funeral. Manila is so far away from Kidapawan. However, my confreres Frs. Romeo Obach and Frank Tobin of the Davao Redemptorist community represented the Redemptorists.

Like many, the news of Fausto's death deeply saddened and shocked me. I first met him when I was assigned in Arakan Valley in 1986. I was a member of the Redemptorist Mission Team and we were invited to conduct missions in his parish - the Mother of Perpetual Help parish. We helped in revitalizing the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) that were weakened due to the militarization. It was a period of euphoria - Marcos had been toppled by People Power and democracy was restored. Yet, we were still in grief over the death of Fr. Tulio Favale who was murdered by paramilitary group led by the Manero brothers. I thought that with the end of the Marcos dictatorship, it won't be necessary for a priest to die a martyr's death.

I was wrong. Last week Fr. Fausto was gunned down as he was about to leave the rectory to attend the monthly meeting in Kidapawan. The assassin shot him point-blank and fled on a motorcycle with another man. As of now nobody knows who killed him or who ordered his death or why he was targetted. The way he was killed reminds me of the modus-operandi of the DDS (Davao Death Squad). Last year, I received information that some of the hitmen of the DDS were moonlighting as hired assassins.

There are a lot of speculations. He was active in the defense of the Lumad - the Indigenous Peoples who were fighting for their rights. He opposed the entry of mining companies in the area. He was very critical of the military operations in Arakan Valley.

His life had been threatened before. He knew it was not safe to continue his missionary work in Arakan. Yet he would not abandon his people. He took the risk and took up his cross. He did not run away and faced death - like  Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Ciao, Fausto. Addio e ci vediamo. Go in peace. I pray that truth and justice will eventually prevail.

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